Category Archives: Advertising

Was Bogart Born on Christmas Day?

Slapsgiving cheer via user and bartender Paddy at The Fedora Lounge.

Close on the heels of my incisive investigation (aka Google Search) as to whether Mr. “When You’re Slapped You’ll Take It and Like It” was at one time the Gerber Baby, I decided to tackle another pervasive rumor using my top-notch investigative reporting skills (aka a slightly higher than average typing speed).

Sadly, as to whether Bogart was born on Christmas, as another longstanding Bogart myth claims, IMDB is of relatively little help, its information having been garbled by an insidious computer virus known as “crowdsourcing.” IMDB dismisses as incorrect the New York Times’ claim Bogart was really born on 12/23/1899 but publicists decided “A guy born on Christmas can’t be all bad.” IMDB says, “Copies of two census forms from 1900 show this to be incorrect,” but doesn’t say which part of the NYT’s claim is incorrect…that publicist changed Bogart’s birth date, that Bogart was born on Christmas, or both?

Bogart’s IMDB trivia page goes on, then, to claim that Bogart would morosely screen “A Star Is Born” every Christmas Day — his birthday — because “I expected more out of myself.” IMDB doesn’t source that claim, other than (vaguely) to director Richard Brooks, in a story that sounds potentially apocryphal.

Nonetheless, the IMDB page for Humphrey Bogart still lists his birth date as Christmas, 1899, as does Wikipedia, which also claims the fake-Christmas-birthday story is baseless, owing to birth notices in early 1900 that list Bogart’s birth date as 12/25/1899.

I can’t imagine what kind of boneheaded publicity hound would make up a fake birthday, but hey, it’s been done before, right? Am I right? Only my parents and my identity thieves know for sure.

In any event, Bogart wasn’t that unusual. Based on the current population, something in excess of 800,000 people in the United States alive today were born on Christmas. In 1900, the figure would have been about a quarter of that.

So…Bogart was not the Gerber baby, but he was a baby-food model, and he was born on Christmas. And don’t forget to attend the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival next year in Key Largo. My guess is, the Key Largo Hilton won’t have baby food, but they’ll have martinis, reportedly Bogart’s favorite drink. As Bogart saw it, “The problem with the world
is that everyone is a few drinks behind.”

Was Humphrey Bogart the Gerber Baby?

You know the Gerber Baby? It’s probably the best-known single baby image in the world, more recognizable to more people, even, than any single image of the infant Christ….which is a scary thought. It’s also the subject of a major urban legend.

Longstanding rumor has it that the model for the campaign was Humphrey Bogart, or occasionally Ernest Borgnine or Liz Taylor. It wasn’t. Bogart was 29 years old when the sketch debuted as the spokesbaby image for Gerber Strained Foods, in the fall of 1928. Ernest Bornine was 11; Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t born yet. Bogart also wasn’t born on Christmas,

Bogart’s mother, Maud Humphrey, was a commercial illustrator and did use her sketches of her son, including one for a campaign for Mellin’s Baby Food. She also used Baby Bogey as a model for Ivory Soap, for an illustration that, for a time, was almost as iconic as Gerber would later become (though not quite as long-lived). As Bogart put it, related in his son Stephen Bogart’s book In Search of My Father, “There was a period in American History when you couldn’t pick up a goddamned magazine without seeing my kisser in it.”

Mystery Novel by the Gerber BabyThe model for Gerber was 2 years old at the time of Fremont Canning’s model search, but it was an old charcoal sketch by a neighbor. Her name was Ann Turner Cook. She did become mildly famous, but as a mystery novelist, according to Wikipedia. You can even find her books on Amazon. Here’s one of them.

Captain Easy

Also according to Wikipedia, Cook’s father was Leslie Turner, a cartoonist who would later take over the syndicated action/adventure comic strip Captain Easy for decades following the departure of creator Roy Crane, having drawn the daily strips in the ’30s while Crane did Sundays. (The 4-volume Fantagraphics reprint features just the Crane years Sunday strips).

But it was a neighbor, Dorothy Hope Smith, who submitted the rough charcoal sketch of the young Miss Turner that became the baby food’s iconic trademark. Smith was a professional artist, and told Fremont Canning Company she intended to finish the sketch professionally if it was chosen. They decided to use it as-is.

The image of the Gerber Baby debuted in an issue of Good Housekeeping in late 1928. And the rest is weird history…